'Quick death' for tunnel couple

A couple who were killed when a landslide engulfed their car died almost instantaneously, a coroner has said.

The inquest into the deaths of Rosemary Snell, 67, from Misterton, Somerset, and Michael Rolfe, 72, from Fivehead, Somerset, was opened and adjourned at West Dorset Coroner's Court.

The pair were driving home from a night out in Beaminster, Dorset, when their silver Skoda was flattened in a tunnel by hundreds of tons of mud and rubble.

Ms Snell and Mr Rolfe left the restaurant early on July 7 because of appalling weather, but never made it home.

Their bodies lay undiscovered in Beaminster Tunnel until Monday evening after Avon and Somerset Police requested a search of the site following a missing persons report.

A spokesman for Dorset Police said: "The coroner has heard evidence that the pathologist found that the cause of death for Rosemary Snell was chest compression due to trapping in landslip.

"The coroner has also heard evidence that the pathologist found that the cause of death for Michael Rolfe was a fracture of the cervical spine due to trapping in landslip.

"The coroner states the death of Rosemary Snell would have been very rapid, while the death of Mr Rolfe would have been instantaneous. It has been stated the prospect of rescue for all practical purposes would have been nil. A full inquest will be heard in due course."

Inquiries by Avon and Somerset Police traced the couple to the Beaminster area on the night of the landslide after a missing persons investigation was launched.

The A3066 road, which runs through the tunnel, has been closed since the landslide and Dorset Police are facing questions about why it took 10 days to locate the car.